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SEMANTIC PRAGMATIC DISORDER (SPD)
 

"Pragmatics is the area of language function that embraces the use of language in social contexts (knowing what to say, how to say it, and when to say it- and how to "be" with other people). (Caroline Bowen, 2001)

Semantic Pragmatic Disorder (SPD) is a linguistic term used to describe a set of abnormal language and communication developmental features, whose behaviours may "shade into autism at one extreme and normality at the other", with "unclear boundaries and differing outcomes over time" (Bishop and Rosenbloom, 1987, Bishop and Norbury, 2000).
Children with semantic and pragmatic disorders may use their language for a more restricted range of purposes than the rest of us, such as asking, directing, recounting experiences, imagining and predicting. They may also display some mild behaviours and features of autism coupled with the language difficulties too.

  • poor language processing, use and understanding
  • literality
  • parrot talk (echolalia ) and copied phrases (scripted language )
  • repetition (perseveration ) and incessant chatter
  • poor turn taking and difficulty maintaining a topic of conversation
  • social difficulties, knowing how to be with people
  • difficulty responding to questions
  • talks around a subject rather than about it
  • • younger children tend to speak in jargon with wrong or inadequate words (semantic paraphasias) or made up words (semantic neologisms )

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One should remain cautious and investigate a child for autism if they show autistic features alongside the following abnormal language development. The four areas of conversation that are most often affected in children with SPD are identified as conversational exchange, turn taking, repairs, and cohesion. The speech-language therapist should use professional judgment and conversational language samples along with inputs from the classroom teacher and family.

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Intervention Plan

Speech Therapy/Speech-Language Therapy for children with Semantic Pragmatic Disorder aims to address the following areas:

  • social skills/pragmatics
  • motivation to communicate
  • development of play skills
  • attention & listening skills
  • understanding language (receptive language)
  • use of expressive communication (verbal / written / symbols and signs)
  • ways in which one's response can affect their environment

Speech Therapy approaches may include the following:

  • Social Stories
  • Intensive Interaction
  • Structured language programmes
  • Picture Exchange Communication System ( PECS )
  • Introduction to visual cues to support understanding and expression
  • Non - directive communication Therapy

Speech Therapists encourage parents/family to observe sessions, use speech development strategies at home, listen carefully to their concerns and address them in treatment, and involve family and other key individuals (e.g. teachers, grandparents, siblings) in the therapy process.

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